Sunrise Movement mobilizes across Texas to address climate change

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After a cataclysmic winter storm left millions of Texans without power and water, the Sunrise Movement is mobilizing across the state and demanding answers from leaders at every level of Texas government.

The Sunrise Movement is a grassroots collection of young people that is championing the Green New Deal, congressional legislation that would address climate change by transitioning away from the fossil fuel industry. The Green New Deal was introduced in 2019 by Senator Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but it did not advance beyond a Senate committee.

Across the country, chapters of the Sunrise Movement have proliferated as more young people recognize the urgency of addressing climate change. After what happened in Texas last week, that sense of urgency has multiplied for the nine chapters of the Sunrise Movement in the state.

As Texans were forced from their homes or required to boil water, volunteers with the Sunrise Movement went into quick action. Members of Houston Sunrise were with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez as she joined Rep. Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee at the Houston Food Bank. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez announced she raised over five million for relief efforts in Texas. 

Today, members from multiple chapters of the Sunrise Movement convened at the Texas Capitol for a rally. Members addressed the galling decisions of Gov. Greg Abbott (who lied about the Green New Deal on Fox News) and Sen. Ted Cruz, who fled to Cancún. But they also challenged President Joe Biden, and urged him to seriously confront the climate change crisis.

At the rally, leaders from the Sunrise Movement called for the resignation of Abbott and Cruz. They also are demanding direct, immediate relief to Texans and a transition to a 100 percent renewable, resilient energy system.

The Sunrise leaders also called on President Biden to come to Texas. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden could travel this week. Initially Biden said he wanted to hold off until his visit wasn’t a burden. He did sign disaster relief for the state.

With Texans in the process of rebuilding after the disaster, Sunrise Movement chapters are pledging to continue the work of lobbying for local efforts to combat climate change. Sunrise Dallas is directly looking to confront the city about the Comprehensive Environmental Climate Action Plan (CECAP) that was passed last year.

In a conversation with Texas Signal, Kidus Girma, an organizer with Sunrise Dallas, said that the plan as it stands currently does not adequately address the threat of climate change. “It simply does not go far enough.”

Girma also emphasized that Sunrise Dallas is calling for concrete commitments from local leaders regarding climate change, not just “political showmanship.” Girma pointed to several other initiatives that Sunrise Dallas plans to focus on, including zoning laws and transportation. For many in DFW, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is too unreliable and has too many neighborhood deserts. “Our transportation [system] only works to go from the suburbs to the center of the city,” said Girma.

The process of rebuilding after the past week in Texas is daunting, and Republican leaders statewide seem incapable of taking any responsibility. For Sunrise Movement chapters across Texas, that means their efforts on the local level are even more important.

Sunrise Dallas understands on the local level, it’s still a challenge. “We have a city with a lot of talk and not a lot of action,” said Girma. Sunrise Dallas isn’t backing down. Their 2021 launch kicks off virtually next weekend.  

Photo: Sunrise Movement/Wikimedia Commons

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